When you listen to Sleep In’s first album Settling, you get the feeling that the people in this band have been around the block more than a few times. And to a certain extent, that’s a good assumption to make—guitarist Eric McNelis was a member of the Progress, and vocalist Keith Badtoff and drummer Mike Dameo both spent years in Philly post-hardcore bands. But this record is not a continuation of the Philadelphia-area scene of the mid-2000s, although some parts are reminiscent of older acts like This Day Forward and Jena Berlin. Nor is it falling in line with the newer “emo revival," even as some parts bring to mind some poppier Topshelf Records acts. The record opens with “I Do Know And I’m Not Sorry”, a grooving, riff-laden, no-bullshit song with Badtoff’s frustrated vocals driving lines like, “What do you see when you look in the mirror? Look beyond yourself, you may see a bit clearer” into the gut of all judgmental pricks. One thing is for sure: Settling is a mission statement for a group of people who have seen both the highest highs and lowest lows of their scene, and are trying to define their own unique experience through giant hooks and mathy guitar parts.
Noisey: I grew up just over the bridge in Delaware and was a fan of some of the other bands you guys were in. Has it been harder to build a fanbase as you get older?
Joe Francolino: Being a little older can make building a fanbase harder, for sure. We all have more responsibilities and less free time to tour than we did when we were 18. A lot of people our age are too busy to be going to shows every weekend anymore. On the other hand, nowadays younger kids are getting into a lot of the same bands that we were into growing up, and punk and indie music everywhere is really booming right now, so that has been kind to us so far.
You guys have all been heavily involved in your scene for a long time. How has that changed over the years?
Joe: Our local community in South Jersey and Philly is the best that it's been in a long time. There was a period a few years back where it seemed like things were kind of dying out. But the past few years there's been a surge of really awesome new bands both from veterans of the area who we've known for years and younger kids alike, and the passion for underground music is on the rise again. It seems to be happening this way all over the country, and it's easier than ever for these different local scenes to intermingle. It's really a great time for DIY music, and we're very fortunate to be a part of such a thriving music community here in the Philly/NJ area.
Sleep In's taking a giant step going straight from a demo to a full length. What was the thought process for that?
Joe: When we first started writing songs together, things clicked really quickly. We didn't initially plan on doing a full length, but before we knew it we had a ton of material that we were really excited about. There wasn't any strategy in mind or anything when we decided to do a full length, we just wanted to make something we were proud of. We also record in the same basement that we rehearse in, and we had the songs ready to go, so we figured why not do an LP?
What are some of the major influences on this record?
Joe: Though there's a lot of overlap, our personal tastes differ quite a bit from band member to band member. The record was written really organically. The five of us just jammed it out together until it felt right. It was very collaborative. We didn't necessarily try to push it in any particular direction. So it's difficult to really pin down any specific influences, other than our influence on one another during the writing process.
The record is called Settling, and it seems to have an overarching theme of dealing with change. Was that planned?
Keith Badtoff: Nothing on the album was actually planned beforehand. The lyrics were, for the most part, improvised while we were writing the music. I've always used stream of consciousness to get a better understanding of where my head is while we're writing these songs and usually it helps me move past whatever is on my mind at that time. So the record definitely does have a recurring theme of change but, for me personally, the real change doesn't happen until after the songs are finished.
Are there any touring plans in the works to support the record?
Joe: Right now, we're working on solidifying a weekend tour to Boston at the end of May for our record release. We also plan to do a couple week-long tours before the year is out, and will be doing weekends and one-offs as much as our busy schedules will allow us. We're working class dudes, but we love doing this and we’ll be getting out on the road every chance we get.
Settling is due out April 29 on Hide Away Records (Podacter). Pre-order it right here.
Paul Blest is on Twitter - @pblest